Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain lost a no-confidence vote on Friday, ousting one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders from office over a major corruption scandal within his conservative party.
Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, is set to replace Mr. Rajoy as prime minister as soon as this weekend. But with Mr. Sánchez’s party holding just 84 of the 350 seats in Parliament, his mandate could be short-lived, paving the way for another general election.
The situation in Spain is different from Italy’s populist upheaval, though, since none of Spain’s main parties contest the country’s membership of the European single currency or promise an immigration clampdown. Rather, Mr. Rajoy’s demise is the result of a long-building corruption scandal that has tainted his conservative Popular Party and comes amid a territorial and constitutional crisis over Catalonia.
Bribes, Kickbacks, Corruption
Both the timing and the manner of his removal — in Parliament rather than in an election — were unexpected. Mr. Sánchez pounced on a court ruling last week that sentenced various business people and politicians, to prison.
The decision made the Popular Party the first Spanish political group to be convicted of operating a slush fund. It was ordered to pay a fine of 245,000 euros, or about $286,000, and the party’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, was sentenced to 33 years in prison and fined €44 million. Spain’s national court also convicted 28 other businessmen and former politicians, who received more than 300 years in combined prison sentences for benefiting from a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.
The no-confidence vote follows one-and-a-half days of tense parliamentary debate, whose turning point came Thursday afternoon, when the Basque nationalists agreed to join Catalan separatist lawmakers in voting against Mr. Rajoy. That about-face came only a week after the same Basque lawmakers used their pivotal votes to approve Mr. Rajoy’s new national budget, which includes a generous financial deal for the Basques. Mr. Sánchez promised the Basques that he would keep Mr. Rajoy’s budget untouched.
Rajoy gave the Basque nationalists what they wanted to get their vote. Then Sánchez agreed to do the same if they voted against Rajoy.
What about the budget?
With socialists in charge, one might expect anything. However, Sánchez promised to keep Rajoy's budget. Regardless, Brussels cannot possibly be happy with this outcome.
Sánchez now get his turn at the simmering stew in Catalonia. On that front, he certainly seems more pragmatic that Rajoy. I recommend pardoning all of the arrested Catalonia political leaders.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock